A new year always represents the opportunity to re-invent, re-invigorate, and recharge the look and feel of your menu. In 2015, we saw a rise in farm-to-table ingredients, the emergence of upscale communal meals, and an explosion of “elevated” comfort foods. Looking forward, the new food climate is going to incorporate a new focus on health and sustainability — but in fun and exotic ways. Read on for our forecast of the top food trends for 2016.

Farm-to-table goes hyper-local. Expect restaurants to continue to support their local economies by continuing to source from nearby farms — but they won’t stop there. The demand for seasonal and fresh ingredients is driving restaurants to utilize any available space for herb and vegetable gardens. Imagine a summer caprese salad that includes in-house basil and tomatoes, picked a half-hour before it hits the table. Your guests will come to love the unparalleled freshness you can offer.

Street food is transformed into gourmet fast-casual. Picture your favorite taco stand. Now imagine that same location amping up their menu to include freshly-ground tortillas encasing grass-fed beef that has been aged 24 months and drizzled with the latest chef-designed sauce for the perfect accent — served in under five minutes. Fast-casual is a trend that is here to stay. Convenience is key here, but flavor profiles aren’t going to be sacrificed in its name. Also on the rise, epicure fried chicken will be making its menu appearance en masse.

Classic tastes make way for exotic flavor profiles. Step aside balsamic glazes, there’s a new kid in town. Expect butcher shops to begin featuring local beef jerky marinated in North African harissa. Keep your eye out for eastern flavor profiles — think Indian ghost chiles and turmeric. Not only will these unexpected seasonings add a new flare to taste palettes, but they also allow chefs to increase the health factor. Turmeric, for example, boasts a high level of antioxidants, medicinal benefits, and a rich flavor.

Vegetables will be featured in all their glory. Gone are the days of the sad, over-steamed veggie sides. Chefs will be welcoming produce as the star of the dish this year. Trust us, you won’t look at cauliflower the same after it’s been roasted to perfection and paired with a bed of shaved fennel, carrot, and zucchini. We are also forecasting a reduction in waste; vegetables come in a wide variety of textures and colors. They will be displayed like art on plates — stems and all — to capture their natural beauty.

This will certainly be an exciting culinary year, and we look forward to collaborating with chefs and restaurants to stay on the front end of these and other food trends. Contact us today to help make your menu vision a reality.